Since it started back in January, Saladin Ahmed’s Abbott series has been one of the most intriguing independent comic stories going. The potent mixture of political and supernatural themes have painted a compelling picture of Detroit in the 1970s. Abbott #4 sees daring reporter Elena Abbott finally get to the bottom of a case that’s been testing her since the beginning.
The issue opens with Abbott mulling over being fired from her job and resolving not to feel sorry for herself. I thought it was a great way to kick off the story, as it’s too easy to wallow in self-pity, especially when it feels like the world is against you. With everything that’s happened to Abbott in previous issues, it would have been understandable for her to give up. But she digs her feet in and carries investigating the disappearance of a young black man named Wardell.
Abbott reaches out to former lover Amelia Chee for help, though Chee calls Elena out for only needing her when it’s convenient. The interaction between the two women is packed with tension, with the suggestion that Abbott was reluctant to be open about their previous relationship in public. This provided some extra depth for her personality. As strong and courageous as she is, Abbott is as flawed as anyone else.
Throughout the issue, Abbott becomes increasingly isolated as she looks into the affairs of Detroit’s privileged white upper class. The racism displayed by certain characters is subtle and blatant in places. For example, when Abbott visits her ex-husband at the police station, a female cop assumes she’s there to bail out a family member. Ahmed doesn’t gloss over these moments, so much as he shows them as a natural part of the time period.
Noir elements rub up against the occult, with Abbott growing in her role as ‘Lightbringer.’ There’s more focus on her role in fighting the evil that’s infesting Detroit, which I appreciated. Ahmed has found a good balance between different genres, but there’s a sense that he’s finally laying all the cards on the table as the story rockets towards its final arc.
As always, Sami Kivela’s art is a treat for the eyes. The most impressive panels feature warped, animalistic creatures glowing with purple energy. The conversation between Elena and Amelia is also captured well, as the latter is presented with a seductiveness that doesn’t require skimpy clothes to pull off. It’s all in the body language.
Abbott #4 pushes its protagonist into new territory and brings the narrative together for what’s sure to be an exciting final issue. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story ends next